Bear season ends up mostly a bust this year

Pennsylvania’s four-day bear season, which ran from Nov. 18 to 22 is now in the books, and all indications are this year’s harvest will be a meager one compared to some of the record-setting seasons that have taken place in recent years.

Although the harvest figures were only available for the first three days of the bear season when I wrote this week’s column on Friday afternoon, indications are the total number of bears taken by hunters this season will reflect a significant decrease compared to previous years.

The primary reason for this decrease, of course, was the miserable rainy weather throughout most of the state that undoubtedly kept many hunters out of the woods or drove them home early. I’ll admit that the dismal forecast was one reason that I missed the opening day of bear season for the first time since 2004. In spite of the weather, however, those intrepid hunters who did get out managed to bag 659 black bears on the rainy opener. By comparison, 1,297 bears were taken on the first day of the season last year and 1,508 bears on the opening day of the 2015 season.

Locally, Huntingdon County produced 16 bears on the opening day compared to 37 last year; Bedford County produced 12 bears on opening day compared to 42 last year; Clearfield County produced 12 bears on opening day compared to 46 last year; Centre County produced 5 bears on opening day compared to 34 last year; Cambria County produced four bears on opening day compared to 10 last year; and Blair County produced one bear on opening day compared to 15 last year.

The second day of the season posted a harvest of another 651 bears, while hunters harvested 318 bears on the third day, bring the three-day total to 1,628, which represents about a 30-percent decrease from the 2,308 bears taken during the first three days of the 2016 season. One statistic, however, is nearly the same as last year, that being the number of counties that have produced bears. So far this season, hunters have taken bears in 54 counties while last year bears were harvested in 58 of the state’s 67 counties.

Lycoming County led the state for the first three days with 120 bears, followed by Tioga County with 113 bears. Locally, Clearfield County was the top bear producer after the first three days with 49 bears. Huntingdon County produced 39 bears, Centre County 31 bears, and Bedford County 26 bears. Blair and Cambria counties each produced six bears.

The heaviest bear checked in during the first three days had an estimated live weight of 700 pounds and was taken in Oil Creek Township, Venango County, by Chad A. Wagner, of Titusville on opening day. The second heaviest bear was a 691-pounder taken on the third day of the season by James M. Langdon, of Wattsburg, in Cherry Grove Township, Warren County. The heaviest bear recorded so far from our area is a 536-pounder taken in Dean Township, Cambria County, by Matthew J. Lidwell, of Dysart, on opening day.

Other large bears taken during the first three days include: a 648-pound male taken Nov. 18 in Dreher Township, Wayne County, by Joseph D. Simon, of Newfoundland; a 609-pound male taken Nov. 18 in Abbott Township, Potter County, by Michael R. Neimeyer, of Spring City; a 601-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Valley Township, Armstrong County, by Bo J. Bowser, of Kittanning; a 595-pound male taken Nov. 18 in St. Marys Township, Elk County, by Stephanie A. Siford, of North East; a 595-pound male taken Nov. 18 in Charleston Township, Tioga County, by Zachery L. Martin, of Wellsboro; a 586-pound male taken Nov. 18 in Oil Creek Township, Crawford County, by Brian K. Baker, of Titusville; a 576-pound male taken Nov. 18 in Homer Township, Potter County, by Kirby R. Kornhaus, of Jonestown; a 569-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Liberty Township, Centre County, by Conner L. Toner, of Beech Creek; a 562-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by William J. Miller, of Beech Creek; a 561-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Fox Township, Sullivan County, by Tyler J. Bagley, of Montgomery; a 561-pound male taken in Ross Township, Luzerne County, by Richard B. Kollar, of Shickshinny.

Of course, tomorrow is the first day of deer season, and if you’re like me, you’ve probably read and heard about as much about that as you need.

I’m now simply looking forward to the solitude of settling into my stand and waiting for the sunrise, hopeful that a deer or two comes my way.

In that spirit, I’ll simply wish my fellow hunters good luck for a safe and productive season.